P e o p l e r e c o n s i d e r a b o u t t h e consequences of their everyday eating items in their shopping cart list. How do we produce these foods? Where do they come from? Who produce those foods? How will eating those food effect on us? How will producing of those affect the environment?
People are becoming aware about the health concern of eating conventional foods. Moreover, they go beyond the health association of the food like the misuse of the pesticides, environmental impact, and animal welfare, improvement of farmer health and safety conditions. And the term ‘organic’ is becoming popular around the world.
What is Organic?
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that the goal of organic foods and organic farming is to integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic is related with pesticide residue which is the amount of pesticides that remain in food. Organic products are less amount of pesticide residue than conventionally grown products.
The term `organic ´ is to indicate that we have to view a farm as a living organism, not just a farm by biodynamic agriculturists. They perceived as the farm as living entity because the farm itself has the interdependence of living creatures, the farm itself must have a biological completeness, it must be a unit which has within itself a balanced organic life in the books of ‘Look to the Land’ by Lord Northbourne.
Organic farming is a combination of innovation of modern technology, science and knowledge of ecology and traditional farming practices to lead to the sustainable future. It relies on natural fertilizers such as compost manure, bone meal and techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.
According to the data at the end of 2016 in 2018 edition of the study ‘The World of Organic Agriculture’ published by Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the global organic market for organic food reached €80 billion in 2016. The United States is the leading market with €38.9 billion, followed by Germany with €9.5 billion, France with €6.7 billion, and China with €5.9 billion. China has recently become as the fourth largest organic consumer country in the world. Moreover, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore have experienced exceptional growth in organic food consumption in Asia region.
There are almost three million organic food producers worldwide in 2016. India with 835,200 producers stand as the first place, followed by Uganda with 210,352 producers and Mexico with 210,000 producers.
Organic Products in Yangon
In Myanmar, the organic market is only at the introduction stage for commercialization of the organic products because the organic products are perceived as the luxury for the elite social class with higher incomes. The potential for organic market seem great because of the new available type of products such as organic Myanmar chicken and natural eggs are now being provided by Shwe Taung Nyo Gyi, Myanmar first organic certified poultry farm.
Other available types of organic products in Yangon are vegetable and fruit, herb, bean, honey, medicine, and coffee. As national level, some organic products are available in supermarket chain such as City Mart and Marketplace. Organic produce are sold in non-supermarket retail outlets and complementary retail such as in Yangon on Myay Paday Thar Island every Saturday and Yangon Farmers Market, a weekly market, held at Inya lake rowing and canoe club between 8:00 am to 12:00pm.
And there are also other routes to access organic products such as organic specialty store and shop, organic purchase schemes like Community Supported Agricultural System (CSA); customer buying a share or membership to the farm as exchange of a box of fresh vegetables every week for the length of the membership, direct relationship with the farmers who grow their food, learning together with the consumer through volunteering activities, field visit and home delivery.
Barriers to Buying Organic Foods
Although the consumers do have the positive perception and attitude towards organic products, the actual buying is relatively low. High prices will be the main deterrent for most of the consumer to buy the organic products. The organic foods are priced higher than the conventional foods. The habitual purchasing behavior of conventionally grown vegetables and fruit in nearby wet markets also prevent access to organic foods. The typical purchaser of the daily food items only look at the appearance of the vegetables and fruits. For organic products, they are more likely to smaller in size than the conventionally grown vegetables and fruits.
Constraints for Organic Foods Producers The major constraint will be the high cost due to high labor usage in the process and certification cost and small volume of production. High costs lead to high prices which leads to barrier to reach towards mass market. Another factor is the lack of technology to support the organic farming. The most important thing is the education about the organic farming practices and making sure that compliance towards those practices by the growers. There needs to be training courses and focus on required rules and regulations. We need to bridge the gap between consumers and producers to develop the organic market. Using information campaign, new approach to reach organic products to consumers, giving a clear explanation about the production process, creating a new market to serve for untapped consumer base such as targeting towards vegetarians and vegan, potential consumers with rising disposable income, consumer who has begun to focus on healthy and sustainable food alternatives can be convinced that having organic products is choosing a naturally healthy living lifestyle.